What Are the Most Iconic Classic Cars Featured in Cinema?

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While we may call a movie “good” because of the quality of the script, the amazing plot and direction, or the talent of the actors – sometimes, cool stuff like classic cars leaves quite the impression. Over the years, cars in movies can become more than just props; they become stars in their own right. The cool, quirky, or downright strange cars in popular films leave a mark, influencing generations, inspiring car culture, and becoming the stuff of children’s dreams and fantasies.

Check out some of the most iconic classic cars that have dazzled on the big screen:

1964 Aston Martin DB5 – Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965)

1964 Aston Martin DB5 James Bond

The 007 franchise has a reputation for making cars famous, but the Aston Martin DB85 from Goldfinger and Thunderball was definitely the most memorable. James Bond’s legacy of iconic classic cars can be traced back from this one, setting the standard for the film franchise.

This car was iconic due to its spy gadgets, like an ejector seat, machine guns, bulletproof shield, and a navigational screen, a precursor to modern GPS systems. But even without modifications, the Aston Martin DB5 was a work of art.

This car’s influence is highlighted by its high auction value, fetching millions because it’s famous. Aston Martin even announced a limited production of 25 replicas, each priced at around $3.5 million, underscoring the enduring legacy of the original Bond car.

1977 Lotus Esprit S1 – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Lotus Esprit S1 1977

The Aston Martin DB5 is not the only Bond car on this list.

The Lotus Esprit S1 in The Spy Who Loved Me is another standout among James Bond cars, as it represented the shift to futuristic designs in the 1970s. This car, known for its sharp, wedge-shaped body, became iconic when it transformed into a submarine in the film, capturing viewers’ imaginations. When the Lotus sprouted stabilizer fins and props and drove up to the beach, and morphed back into a car, it left beachgoers slack-jawed, and the audience astounded.

This particular Lotus Esprit S1 recently made headlines when Elon Musk purchased it from a couple who found the car in an unclaimed storage unit, purchasing it for only $1. Musk paid them a cool million for it and announced plans to convert it into a functional submarine.

1977 Pontiac Trans Am – Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

Pontiac Trans Am at Gibeau Orange Julep

 When director Hal Needham chose the 1977 Pontiac Trans Am to star in his movie Smokey and the Bandit, alongside Burt Reynolds and Sally Field, he did not know that it would turn out to be a powerful symbol of rebellion and freedom.

This car, with its sleek design and iconic black and gold color scheme, became an instant sensation after the film’s release. It captured the spirit of the 70s in the high-speed chases and daring escapades where it slid around corners, leaped over broken bridges, and evaded the sheriff for hundreds of miles. After that, everybody wanted a black and gold T/A in their garage.

Sales of the car rose by about 30,000 units from 1977 to 1978 and by another 24,000 during 1979. Americans went crazy for the Starlight Black Special Edition paint job, the T-Top roof, and the fact that the car outperformed the same-generation Corvette. It was likely the blend of these features and Burt Reynolds’ star power that turned the Trans Am into a legendary classic.

1981 DeLorean DMC-12 – Back to the Future series

1981 DeLorean DMC with doors open

Doc Brown and Marty McFly made the DeLorean DMC-12 a household name. If not for the cult classic Back to the Future franchise, there’s not much to be remembered about the DeLorean.

Known as the time-traveling car, this vehicle featured gull-wing doors and a stainless steel body. The DeLorean’s fictional modifications, like the flux capacitor and time circuits, captured the imagination of audiences, making it a symbol of 1980s cinema and a favorite among car enthusiasts and movie fans alike. The futuristic aesthetic of the car and a little bit of magic made it legendary.

However, in reality, the car was a commercial failure, and its specs didn’t really impress consumers. It was visually stunning, but under the hood, it wasn’t quite the supercar that its flashy shell had promised. Reportedly, the props team replaced its sluggish V-6 with a V-8 from Porsche 928, allowing Marty McFly to hit 88 mph, fire up the Flux Capacitor, and scram back to 1955.

But despite that, the car’s retro-futuristic design gained a cult following, largely because of the film.

1968-1970 Dodge Charger – The Fast and the Furious series

Dodge Charger from The Fast and the Furious

The Fast and the Furious series completely changed how people viewed street car racing. It was one of cinema’s most classic car films known for its impressive, over-the-top car chases. The most iconic vehicle they featured was the Dodge Charger, which is a movie star on its own. After starring as “General Lee” in the popular TV show The Dukes of Hazzard, the car became more popular when it starred alongside Vin Diesel.

With its menacing black appearance and powerful engine accentuated by a supercharger, the muscle car was an instant street icon. In the film, Vin Diesel floors the Charger’s throttle as he was against Paul Walker’s character’s Supra, does a sick wheelstand and burnout, and then later, both of the cars jump a set of train tracks just as a train passes. Then, Diesel flips the Charger in the finish, showing how fast and furious it can be. Sure, it was just special effects, but it did not stop audiences from admiring the classic car. The Dodge Charger became a symbol of street racing culture since then.

1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor (Ecto-1/Ecto-1A/Ectomobile) – Ghostbusters (1984), Ghostbusters II (1989)

The Ectomobile (or the Ecto-1 and Ecto-1A) is just as iconic as the film and the men riding inside it. Originally planned with a darker, more supernatural design, the 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor was eventually styled as a quirky ambulance/hearse with a powerful V-8 engine. The car became a symbol of the movie itself, featuring its ghost-hunting equipment, distinctive siren, and the iconic Ghostbusters logo on each door. The Ectomobile stands as a memorable example of how a car can become an integral character in a film and an enduring symbol in pop culture.

Notably used for promotional events, it caused quite a stir in New York City, where sightings of the car after the release of the film caused car accidents. Two cars were bought for the movie: the primary was modified for shooting, while the secondary, known as ECTO-1A, was later restored by fans after buying the car from Sony. The Ectomobile’s unique design and its role in the film have made it a memorable piece of cinematic history.

1961 Ferrari 250 GT California – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

1961 Ferrari 250GT California Spyder

In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder became a symbol of luxury and desire. However, due to budget constraints, the film used replicas crafted by Modena Design and Development to match the bodywork of a Ferrari. Three of these cars were used in filming.

In the movie, Ferris borrows the car from his friend, Cameron Frye’s father, and ultimately destroys it. The car was certainly a plot essential – it drove the narrative forward and reflected Ferris Bueller’s daring and carefree spirit. Since then, the Ferrari 250 GT California has since become a symbol of 80s cinema and a dream car for many enthusiasts.

1969 Mustang – John Wick (2014)

1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1

Keanu Reeves has driven a lot of on-screen vehicles, and probably his most memorable one was a Los Angeles city bus in Speed (1994). But one of his coolest rides came 20 years later in the movie John Wick. In the film, they mention the Mustang as possibly being a “Boss 429,” although it’s not the case. A genuine Boss ‘9 is rare and highly valuable, with one selling for $550,000 at an auction in 2015. It’s more likely that the film crew used a ’69 Mustang Mach 1 with either a 390 V-8 or a 428 engine, both of which are powerful enough for the on-screen action and look incredibly cool.

What sets this movie apart is that they used a real car for all the driving scenes without relying on computer-generated effects. Also, Reeves did most of the stunt driving himself after undergoing performance driving training. One of the standout moments is when he drifts the Mustang around a wet airport parking lot, getting closer and closer to a row of dump trucks. The Mustang also appeared in John Wick Chapter 2.

Batmobile/Tumbler, Batman films

the Batmobile

The Batmobile Tumbler from Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) stand out as iconic vehicles, much like James Bond’s cars. This Batmobile is not only visually striking but also technically impressive, much like the famous 1960s version designed by George Barris. It’s powered by a robust 350-cid Chevy V-8 engine and can zoom to 60 mph in about five seconds, thanks to its 37-inch off-road tires. The filmmakers mention that it features a highly flexible independent front suspension and a body constructed from over 65 carbon-fiber panels.

What’s really cool about the Tumbler is that it’s a real, functional vehicle, not just a computer-generated image. This adds a touch of authenticity that’s rare for movie props these days.

Moving to the Batmobile featured in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) it continues the tradition of bringing a unique flair to Batman’s adventures in Gotham. This version of the Batmobile keeps up the legacy of being a stylish and essential part of Batman’s quest for justice. And for many generations, the Batmobile has become a dream car.

1974 Dodge Monaco (Bluesmobile) – The Blues Brothers (1980)

Dodge Monaco Blues Mobile

The Bluesmobile, a 1974 Dodge Monaco, may not be as iconic as the Batmobile, but it’s just as recognizable as Jake and Elwood Blues’ outfits. Originating from a Saturday Night Live sketch by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, it led to two movies. In the first film, they used the Dodge Monaco version, while the sequel featured a 1990 Ford LTD Crown Victoria as the Bluesmobile.

The movie used 13 different cars, such as the Bluesmobile, all former California Highway Department patrol cars made to resemble Mount Prospect patrol cars. Some were modified for Speed, others for jumps or high-performance scenes. Over 60 old police cars were bought and used, so they had a 24-hour body shop on set for repairs. A whopping 103 cars were wrecked during filming, setting a world record. Dean Jeffries, a legendary custom car designer and fabricator, worked on the first film and mentioned they smashed hundreds of cars. The number of wrecks in the film’s sequel was 104.

1976 AMC Pacer (Mirthmobile) – Wayne’s World 1 and 2 (1992-1993)

Rear view of 1976 AMC Pacer coupe 

The 1976 AMC Pacer, affectionately known as the Mirthmobile in “Wayne’s World 1 and 2,” stands out for its unique and often criticized design. Despite being considered one of the ugliest cars ever made, the Pacer gained cult status thanks to its prominent role in the films. The car’s notable features, including its vast body and the quirky modifications like the red-rope licorice dispenser, made it an unforgettable part of the Wayne’s World experience.

This Pacer, with its 4.2-liter engine and three-speed transmission, became a symbol of the movie’s humor and offbeat style. It featured some tacky flames that became the reason why Wayne’s best buddy failed to get all the ladies.

The Gigahorse – Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Released by Warner Bros. after a 30-year hiatus, Mad Max: Fury Road surprised fans with a fleet of unique and innovative vehicles, arguably more so than any previous Mad Max movie. Among these, the Gigahorse stands out as particularly wild.

The Gigahorse looks like something you’d expect to see in a CGI sequence, but it is surprisingly real. It features two 1959 Cadillac bodies mounted on a massive truck chassis, powered by twin supercharged Chevy big block V-8 engines. This power drives huge tractor tires, giving the Gigahorse a look that reminds you of a 1970s funny car dragster on stilts.

While the Gigahorse isn’t used for typical movie car stunts, it’s mesmerizing to watch it cruise through the desert. Its most notable scene occurs during the movie’s final chase, where the convoy squeezes through a tight canyon. In a pivotal moment, Max, Imperator Furiosa, and their allies ultimately defeat Immortan Joe, the villain behind the wheel of the Gigahorse.

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